A Deadly Education

A Deadly Education

by Naomi Novik

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

A supremely sarcastic sorceress, and supposed harbinger of death, does her best to survive and thrive in this first book in the Scholomance series. Novik maintains her stunning world-building and intriguing characters with this first-in-class novel, and you'll want to follow Galadriel straight through this insane school and right into the sequel.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver comes the story of an unwilling dark sorceress who is destined to rewrite the rules of magic.

“The dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for.” Katherine Arden, author of Winternight Trilogy

I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.

Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.

I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.

At least, that’s what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does.

But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.

Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.

With flawless mastery, Naomi Novik creates a school bursting with magic like you’ve never seen before, and a heroine for the ages—a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come.

Praise for Deadly Education

“The can’t-miss fantasy of fall 2020, a brutal coming-of-power story steeped in the aesthetics of dark academia. . . . A Deadly Education will cement Naomi Novik’s place as one of the greatest and most versatile fantasy writers of our time.”BookPage (starred review)

“A must-read . . . Novik puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school. . . . Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion’s relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 07/06/2020

Novik (Spinning Silver) puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school setting of the spellbinding first fantasy in her Scholomance trilogy. The students of Scholomance, a boarding school for sorcerers, must weather survival-of-the-fittest trials, fighting off the Lovecraftian monsters known as maleficaria (or “mals”) that routinely break in to eat students. Graduation is the greatest challenge of all, and requires the students to fight their way through the sea of mals clustered outside the building. Dark sorceress El (short for Galadriel) has a plan for how she’ll make it through the gates alive next year: she’ll learn to control her affinity for destruction, make allies by impressing other students with her abilities, and stockpile magical energy. But monster-slayer Orion Lake throws a wrench in the works. He keeps saving El before she can display her talents, and has killed so many lesser mals that the ones left are huge—and hungry. El and Orion must strike up an alliance to save themselves and their schoolmates from monstrous destruction. Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion’s relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body. This is a must-read for fantasy fans. (Oct.)

Library Journal

★ 07/01/2020

From the time she was young, living with her mother on a commune, Galadriel has had a special bond with magical forces. As this novel opens, she is in her third year in the Scholomance, a school for magically gifted children. In Scholomance, students are tested daily on not only their magical abilities but their ability to survive the other students, the magical inhabitants of the school, the creepy cafeteria, and the dangerous coursework. Outcast Galadriel can rely on no help from the other students, except for Orion, who appears to be "some kind of inhumanly heroic monster slayer." But is he trying to help, or does he have sinister ulterior motives for always showing up when she's in danger? An unresolved ending leaves readers eager for the next installment. VERDICT This latest from Novik ("Temeraire" series) launches a new series that should appeal to aficionados of fantastical fiction as well as to those who have felt they never quite fit in and don't understand why. The magic and mystery of this chillingly lovely novel will appeal to both YA and adult fans of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/20.]—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage P.L., AK

Kirkus Reviews

2020-06-17
A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

From the Publisher

I loved this book. It’s such a nail-biter, it’s funny, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s such a good read.”BuzzFeed

“Novik deliciously undoes expectations about magic schools, destined heroes, and family legacies. A gorgeous book about monsters and monstrousness, chockablock with action, cleverness, and wit.”—Holly Black, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“The Scholomance is the dark school of magic I’ve been waiting for, and its wise, witty, and monstrous heroine is one I’d happily follow anywhere—even into a school full of monsters.”—Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale

“At the Scholomance, monsters are everywhere and the breakfast might kill you, but the wonderful cast of characters will grab ahold of your heart and you’ll never want to leave this deadly school. Naomi Novik skillfully combines sharp humor with layers of imagination to build a fantasy that delights on every level. I loved this brilliant book.”—Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Caraval series

“Eyeball-meltingly brilliant . . . Novik is, quite simply, a genius.”—Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken

“Hilarious and wild! Take any fictional magic school, make it as over-the-top dangerous as possible, and populate it with a bunch of snarky teenagers; the result is pure batshit fun.”—N. K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The City We Became

A Deadly Education is a nightmare from which I never wished to wake: savage, inventive, and soulful. Novik grasps the totems of childhood that linger in your mind—schools of magic, curses, cutthroat classmates, monsters—only to twist them into a grand new tale that’ll make you believe in magic again.”—Pierce Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Age

A Deadly Education is a book that lives up to its gobsmacker of an opening sentence and follows right through to its shocker of an ending that promises more to come. Naomi Novik is relentlessly innovative and entertaining.”—Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Druid

“Friendship in spite of itself; danger that doesn’t quit—what a wildly magical ride!”—Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author of Tempests and Slaughter

“The magic and mystery of this chillingly lovely novel will appeal to both YA and adult fans of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. . . . An unresolved ending leaves readers eager for the next installment.”Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Award-winner Novik's latest (after Spinning Silver, 2018) is the start of a fabulous dark and monstrous trilogy. . . . The final chapter in this fast-paced fantasy introduces new characters and a surprising conflict for the next book in the series, which offers a fresh take on the magic school trope.”Booklist (starred review)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593128480
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/29/2020
Series: Scholomance Series , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 2,395
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Soul-­eater

I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life. I hadn’t really cared much about him before then one way or another, but I had limits. It would’ve been all right if he’d saved my life some really extraordinary number of times, ten or thirteen or so—thirteen is a number with distinction. Orion Lake, my personal bodyguard; I could have lived with that. But we’d been in the Scholomance almost three years by then, and he hadn’t shown any previous inclination to single me out for special treatment.

Selfish of me, you’ll say, to be contemplating with murderous intent the hero responsible for the continued survival of a quarter of our class. Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.

Ah, but what about me, you ask, since I’d needed him to save me? Twice, even? And that’s exactly why he had to go. He set off the explosion in the alchemy lab last year, fighting that chimaera. I had to dig myself out of the rubble while he ran around in circles whacking at its fire-­breathing tail. And that soul-­eater hadn’t been in my room for five seconds before he came through the door: he must have been right on its heels, probably chasing it down the hall. The thing had only swerved in here looking to escape.

But who’s going to let me explain any of that? The chimaera might not have stuck to me, there were more than thirty kids in the lab that day, but a dramatic rescue in my bedchamber is on another level. As far as the rest of the school is concerned, I’ve just fallen into the general mass of hapless warts that Orion Lake has saved in the course of his brilliant progress, and that was intolerable.

Our rooms aren’t very big. He was only a few steps from my desk chair, still hunched panting over the bubbling purplish smear of the soul-­eater that was now steadily oozing into the narrow cracks between the floor tiles, the better to spread all over my room. The fading incandescence on his hands was illuminating his face, not an extraordinary face or anything: he had a big beaky nose that would maybe be dramatic one day when the rest of his face caught up, but for now was just too large, and his forehead was dripping sweat and plastered with his silver-­grey hair that he hadn’t cut for three weeks too long. He spends most of his time behind an impenetrable shell of devoted admirers, so it was the closest I’d ever been to him. He straightened and wiped an arm across the sweat. “You okay—Gal, right?” he said to me, just to put some salt on the wound. We’d been in the same lab section for three years.

“No thanks to you and your boundless fascination for every dark thing creeping through the place,” I said icily. “And it is not Gal, it has never been Gal, it’s Galadriel”—the name wasn’t my idea, don’t look at me—“and if that’s too many syllables for you to manage all in one go, El will do.”

His head had jerked up and he was blinking at me in a sort of open-­mouthed way. “Oh. Uh. I—I’m sorry?” he said, voice rising on the words, as if he didn’t understand what was going on.

“No, no,” I said. “I’m sorry. Clearly I’m not performing my role up to standard.” I threw a melodramatic hand up against my forehead. “Orion, I was so terrified,” I gasped, and flung myself onto him. He tottered a bit: we were the same height. “Thank goodness you were here to save me, I could never have managed a soul-­eater all on my own,” and I hiccuped a pathetically fake sob against his chest.

Would you believe, he actually tried to put his arm round me and give my shoulder a pat, that’s how automatic it was for him. I jammed my elbow into his stomach to shove him off. He made a noise like a whoofing dog and staggered back to gawk at me. “I don’t need your help, you insufferable lurker,” I said. “Keep away from me or you’ll be sorry.” I shoved him back one more step and slammed the door shut between us, clearing the end of that beaky nose by bare centimeters. I had the brief satisfaction of seeing a look of perfect confusion on his face before it vanished away, and then I was left with only the bare metal door, with the big melted hole where the doorknob and lock used to be. Thanks, hero. I glared at it and turned back to my desk just as the blob of soul-­eater collapsed the rest of the way, hissing like a leaky steam pipe, and a truly putrescent stink filled the room.

I was so angry that it took me six tries to get a spell for cleaning it up. After the fourth attempt, I stood up and hurled the latest crumbling ancient scroll back into the impenetrable dark on the other side of my desk and yelled furiously, “I don’t want to summon an army of scuvara! I don’t want to conjure walls of mortal flame! I want my bloody room clean!”

What came flying out of the void in answer was a horrible tome encased in some kind of pale crackly leather with spiked corners that scraped unpleasantly as it skidded to me across the metal of the desk. The leather had probably come off a pig, but someone had clearly wanted you to think it had been flayed from a person, which was almost as bad, and it flipped itself open to a page with instructions for enslaving an entire mob of people to do your bidding. I suppose they would have cleaned my room if I told them to.

I had to actually take out one of my mother’s stupid crystals and sit down on my narrow squeaky bed and meditate for ten minutes, with the stench of the soul-­eater all around me and getting into my clothes and sheets and papers. You’d think that any smell would clear out quickly, since one whole wall of the room is open to the scenic view of a mystical void of darkness, so delightfully like living in a spaceship aimed directly into a black hole, but you’d be wrong. After I finally managed to walk myself back from the incoherent kicking levels of anger, I pushed the pigskin book off the far edge of my desk back into the void—using a pen to touch it, just in case—and said as calmly as I could manage, “I want a simple household spell for cleaning away an unwanted mess with a bad smell.”

Sullenly down came—thump—a gigantic volume titled Amunan Hamwerod packed completely full of spells written in Old English—my weakest dead language—and it didn’t open to any particular page, either.

That sort of thing is always happening to me. Some sorcerers get an affinity for weather magic, or transformation spells, or fantastic combat magics like dear Orion. I got an affinity for mass destruction. It’s all my mum’s fault, of course, just like my stupid name. She’s one of those flowers and beads and crystals sorts, dancing to the Goddess under the moon. Everyone’s a lovely person and anyone who does anything wrong is misunderstood or unhappy.

She even does massage therapy for mundanes, because “it’s so relaxing to make people feel better, love.” Most wizards don’t bother with mundane work—it’s considered a bit low—or if they do, they hunt themselves out an empty sack of a job. The person who retires from the firm after forty-­six years and no one quite remembers what they were doing, the befuddled librarian that you occasionally glimpse wandering the stacks without seeming to do anything, the third vice president of marketing who shows up only for meetings with senior management; that sort of thing. There’re spells to find those jobs or coax them into existence, and then you’ve provided yourself with the necessities of life and kept your time free to build mana and make your cheap flat into a twelve-­room mansion on the inside. But not Mum. She charges almost nothing, and that little mostly because if you offer to do professional massage for free, people will look at you sideways, as well they should.

Naturally I came out designed to be the exact opposite of this paragon, as anyone with a basic understanding of the balancing principle might have expected, and when I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire. Not that I can actually use any of these delightful cataclysmic spells the school is so eager to hand out to me. Funnily enough, you can’t actually whip up an entire army of demons on just a wink.

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